24 January 2015

2013 BBM 最強外国人伝説2 DEEP IMPACT (Legendary Foreigners 2 Deep Impact) Box Break [image heavy]

     I finally broke down and picked up a box of BBM's 2013 Strongest Foreign Legends 2 Deep Impact set, or given the checkist, it could have simply been titled 2013 BBM Even More Foreigners, since very few of them were very successful, much less "strong legends".  This is the first set to include a certified autograph card of Sir Hensley "Bam-Bam" Meulens.  He signed only 48 cards, and so far two have sold for well over $100 on Yahoo! Auctions Japan.  The only one I can find for sale presently is listed for ¥25,000 at Mint Mall's website (which currently translates to around $212US).  I find that to be entirely ridiculous.  The highest selling autos from this set have been Meulens, Bill Madlock, Seung-Yuop Lee and Randy Bass.  Bass makes sense, as he was truly a legend is Japan.  Madlock has had autos in multiple products, so I don't understand the prices for his cards.  Lee has lots of autos in Japan, but almost any Korean player tends to sell well in Japanese products, star players especially so.
     It has been quite some time since I did one of these, mainly because I just don't like to buy boxes of cards.  In the last few years, I've stopped buying unopened product at all unless the set contains a player I collect, and is afforable.  "Affordable" to me is somewhat out of touch with the mainstream of the hobby (as is just about everything about my collecting habits and blog) as I can't let go of the days when boxes of the latest cards rarely exceeded $30, and you got well over 500 cards for your trouble.  These days, so many collectors don't blink at dropping $80+ on boxes that net them less than 100 cards; and that is on the low end of the spectrum.   So the only reason I decided to pick up this box (and might buy a second one if I can snag it for a low enough price) is that someone gave me a Visa gift card for Christmas (so, free money) and I was able to siphon some of that into my KuboTEN account.  The result was this:

     This set was released with the MSRP of ¥8400, but faded quickly.  I didn't quite understand what I was reading when I saw this auction, so I didn't get quite the deal I initially thought.  At first, I thought it was an auction for two boxes, with a starting bid of ¥3000.  Turns out the seller just had two boxes for sale, either BIN for ¥3000 each, or a starting bid of ¥3000 per box.  Had I realized it had a BIN, I would have had this about a week sooner.  After fees and shipping, I ended up dropping ¥5696 on this box, or just under $50, which is still more than I would like to have paid, but if it landed me the Meulens card (or at least one of the facsimile autograph cards of him), I think I could probably unload the rest and come out fairly even.  It's definitely better than dropping over $200 for the card all by itself.  I'd rather drop the $200 on a stack of boxes and take my chances.

    In any case, the fact that boxes are now selling for a mere 35% of their initial price is very telling as to how unpopular this set is in Japan.  The main issue is that the first series had autos of 52 different players seeded throughout the product.  This series only has 37 possible autographs, and in general, despite many of them being the first certified autos for some of these players, there are several repeats from the first series and the rest are a fairly weak bunch.

     I was actually intending to do this break as a video and post it to my channel on YouTube, where all those 1989 Topps/LJN Baseball Talk cards live, but as it turns out, I absolutely detest the sound of my own voice and, after a few quick video tests, couldn't stomach the thought of editing the video after the fact.  In fact, I apologize to anyone who has ever had to have a conversation with me over the phone or in person.  It was moderately more tolerable if I affected an accent or put on a character, but that just seemed like way too much effort.  I did record the break, though, but I did it without audio.  Originally I thought I would dub in some audio, but finally just decided I would simply grab screen captures from the video and post it all here.  So instead of a video, you get a photo story.

The scene:

     The weather had been really damp and drizzly here, so the box arrived a bit damp.  As it turned out, that was a benefit because it made opening the box from the bottom a lot easier than trying to cut through all the labeling on top.  Packing consideration made possible by the Yomiuri Shimbun:

     Gentleman...BEHOLD!   One box, 20 packs, 5 cards per pack.  What was I saying earlier about overpaying for a box of 100 cards?

     Something you never see with American product, this actually has a full checklist on the back of the box.  It even includes the details for the parallels and inserts, BBM doesn't actually list how many autographs are possible.

     Something else that is unique to BBM boxes is the inclusion of product placeholders for hangars.  I suppose since space is always at such a premium in Japan, it makes more sense for packs to hang on racks, rather than trying to make shelf or counter top space for open display boxes.   As a result most Japanese card packs are hanger packs.

On to the packs, and be quick about it!

Pack 1

Chan-Ho Park

Trey Moore

Willie Upshaw Off Shot

Mike Diaz

Shane Mack

Pack 2

Boomer Wells

Seung-Yuop Lee

Dave Hilton

Derrick May

Tuffy Rhodes

      Had I not already received a copy of the Tuffy Rhodes card from RyanG, I might have been more excited about this pack.  As it is, OFF TO COMC WITH YOU!

Pack 3

Cecil Fielder

Chang-Yong Lim

Roy White Autograph #/100

Joe Pepitone

Don Money

     Well, three packs in, and I already hit the one possible auto in the box.  Unfortunately for all my hopes and dreams about this box, it was not Hensley Meulens, but in fact was Roy White, a career Yankee from 1965-1979, who took his services to the Yomiuri Giants when he could no longer hit major league pitching.  He had a pretty good first year in Japan, and tailed off a bit the following two seasons before retiring.  White was a two time All-Star during one of the Yankees worst periods.  He and Joe Pepitone were both on the 1969 Yankees.  While White held his own in the Giants lineup, Pepitone could only manage a .163 batting average in 14 games for the Yakult Atoms in 1973.

     After watching a few other breaks of this product, it seems the autographs were usually within the first 3-4 packs in the front section of the box, the box being divided into three sections to hold the packs in place.  It is sort of an anti-climax to find the "hit" so soon in the box.

Pack 4

Hiram Bocachica

Randy Bass

Dong Yul Sun

Robert Rose

Mike Easler

     Randy Bass, the pride of Lawton, OK and two time Triple Crown winner with the Hanshin Tigers.  Probably the most popular player in this set by a fairly significant margin.

Pack 5

Derrick May (double)

Tuffy Rhodes (double)

Reggie Smith Off Shot

Bobby Thigpen

Rick Lancelotti

     Bobby Thigpen was one of those pitchers that had a few average seasons, then had an OMG! type 1990 where he obliterated Dave Righetti's then single season record of 46 saves (which he held for all of 4 seasons) by notching a then staggering 57 saves in 65 save opportunities, while posting a 1.83 ERA.  Thigpen's record would stand for 18 years.  He followed that stellar 1990 with another very average 1991, and then proceeded to tank for the next two years.  He seemed to find his form in Japan for the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, with two seasons of sub 2.00 ERA, though nowhere near the save opportunities (largely due to the nature of the Japanese approach to starting pitchers throwing longer when in trouble, where as MLB managers seem to throw a closer out there in every possible save situation, whether it's necessary or not).  That success in Japan did not translate to a successful return to the US, as Thigpen had apparently forgotten how to pitch to big league hitters.

Pack 6

Matt Stairs

Matt Winters Off Shot

Lee Stevens

Jeff Manto

Boomer Wells Title Holder insert

     The first appearance of a Title Holder insert.  There are four versions of this set.  All feature the mirror-like foil background, but the others have different colored trim and are serial numbered.  Pink #/100, Green #/50 and Blue #/30.  The gold version is the most common and is not serial numbered.  The set recognizes various foreigners who led the league in some statistical category.

Pack 7

Marc Kroon

R.J. Reynolds

Roy White / Gary Thomasson Off Shot

Reggie Smith

Frank Ootenzio

Pack 8

Jose Fernandez

Frank Howard

Rob Deer

Glenn Braggs

Gary Thomasson

     I suspect there was some sort of secret society of pitchers who somehow influenced the signing of players like Rob Deer, Pete Incaviglia and Jack Cust purely to pad their strikeout statistics.  Rob Deer distinguished himself by managing to lead the league in strikeouts four times in his first eight seasons in his MLB playing days, two of those seasons coming in second.  In Deer's case, his major league "talents" translated perfectly to Japan where he also managed to generate a cooling breeze for the pitchers' benefit, while failing to reach the Mendoza line.

Pack 9

Marty Brown

Bill Madlock Off Shot

Davey Johnson

Kip Gross

Terry Bross Title Holder insert

     Better known by most for his managing career, Davey Johnson was another of those players with that one insane season that made little sense in the context of his overall playing career.  In 1973, despite never having hit more than 19 home runs in a season his entire professional career to that point, he managed to rack up 43 home runs for the Braves.  Despite finishing 5th that year, the Braves fans got to see lots of fireworks as that 1973 team had three players all hit 40+ home runs that season; Johnson, Darrell Evans and Hank Aaron.  It wasn't even a situation where he was seeing better pitches because of Evans and Aaron, as Johnson was usually in the #6 or #7 slot in the lineup.  It was his first season in the NL, though, so maybe the opposing pitchers just had terrible scouting reports on him and just kept throwing big, fat pitches right into his wheelhouse.

Pack 10

Benny Agbayani

Roy White

Ralphy Bryant Off Shot

Hiram Bocachica (double)

Willie Upshaw

Pack 11

Brian Traxler

Jeremy Powell

Bill Madlock Off Shot (double)

Davey Johnson (double)

Jim Traber

Pack 12

Leon Lee

Marc Kroon (double)

Jeremy Powell Silver Signature parallel #/100

Reggie Smith (double)

Rich Schu

     Twelve packs and the first facsimile signature parallel shows up.  According to the box, there are 27 of these, but I have not been able to find a complete checklist, so I'm slowly compiling it for later addition to SCF and TCDB.  Silver are numbered to 100, gold numbered to 50 and red numbered to 30.

Pack 13

Orestes Destrade

Aaron Guiel

Matt Stairs

Mike Greenwell

Lloyd Moseby

     Orestes Destrade was a Cuban born player, originally signed by the Yankees, who seemed to just give up on him despite some good numbers in the minors.  The Yankees dealt him to the Pirates, where he did poorly, and so he took his bag to Japan and signed with the Seibu Lions.  Over the next four seasons with the Lions, Destrade averaged 38 home runs.  After Cecil Fielder's much ballyhoo'd success with Detroit, after a season with Hanshin, The expansion Florida Marlins, a Miami-based team, thought the couldn't lose by signing a Cuban slugger who has tearing it up in Japan, so they made him their cleanup hitter for their inaugural 1993 season.  While Destrade did not have a Cecil Fielder level of success, he did manage to lead the Marlins in HR (20) and RBI (87).  But overall, it was a disappointing performance, given such lofty expectations, and after starting off a truly miserable 1994 (not reaching .200 in the first 13 games, and only 5 home runs through 39 games) he was released...or rather as the transaction line puts it "Granted Free Agency" in May.

Pack 14

Leon Lee (double)

Bobby Valentine

Matt Winters

Trey Hillman

Rich Schu (double)

     Bobby Valentine's quick success and huge popularity in Japan perhaps gave the other teams there a somewhat inflated notion of what more former MLB managers might accomplish in NPB.  Despite his success, which instantly led to exaggerated expectations by team management, Bobby was basically run out of Chiba by the teams ownership because he was apparently making ownership look bad by being American and making the team so much money.  Sad to say, but after his return to the US, and terrible year in Boston, I would be surprised to see Valentine manage again in MLB.   With the inclusion of Trey Hillman, this pack contains both of the American managers who won championships for NPB teams as Valentine won in 2005 with the Marines and Hillman in 2006 with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.

Pack 15

Mike Greenwell (double)

Lloyd Moseby (double)

Matt Winters Off Shot (double)

Rex Hudler

Lee Stevens

Pack 16

Dave Hilton (double)

Reggie Smith Off Shot (double)

Bobby Thigpen (double)

Jesse Barfield

Ralph Bryant Title Holder insert

     Jesse Barfield was often considered to have the strongest arm in the game during his days with the Blue Jays and Yankees, leading the league in outfield assists five times between 1982-1990, coming in second twice.  He showed plenty of power in his one season with Yomiuri, hitting 27 home runs in 104 games, but his hitting was not up to Giants standards, managing only a meager .215 average.

Pack 17

Jose Fernandez (double)

Bill Madlock

Frank Ortenzio Off Shot

Melbin Bunch

Terry Bross

     Bill Madlock was the rare Hall of Fame caliber player who spent a final active season in Japan.  While he did show the same power that occasionally surfaced in his MLB career, he no longer hit for the average he was known for.  Had he been just a bit more durable (never playing more than 154 games in a season, and only averaging 120 per season across his career), it would have garnered much more consideration for the Hall, after all he did win four National League batting titles and end his 15 year career with a lifetime .305 batting average.

Pack 18

Carlos Ponce

Alex Ochoa

Rob Ducey

Dan Gladden

Ralph Bryant Off Shot (double)

Pack 19

Shane Mack (double)

Frank Ortenzio

Luis Sanchez

Nigel Wilson

Willie Fraser

Pack 20

Ralph Bryant

Fernando Seguignol

Marty Brown (double)

Brian Traxler (double)

Jeremy Powell (double)

     And that's the box.   If not for the Roy White auto (and from my perspective, even with it), this seems to have been a fairly disappointing box.  20 packs, 100 total cards.  That breaks down as:

95 base cards
71 unique (of 81 possible)
24 doubles

5 inserts
3 Title Holder inserts
1 Silver Signature parallel
1 autograph

     I hope to take another stab at landing that Meulens auto, but it will have to be for a good $10 less than this one cost.

14 January 2015

1991(?) Houston Astros Team Issue Photo Cards

    Yet another case of not knowing something existed until it turned up on eBay, these photos were given out by the Houston Astros in response to fan mail, usually fan mail asking for autographs, but not having actually provided anything to be signed.  I recently picked this up along with the original team envelope containing "Thank you for your interest in our team" letter, a pocket schedule and these two photos.  As far as I know, Houston still gives out these types of photo cards for fan pack requests.

    The black & white photos are blank backed and measure 3 5/16" x 4 7/8".  Based on this particular arrangement of player name and fielding position, along with the assortment of players I've seen in this design on eBay, the Astros issued these from about 1987 to 1993.  Below are the other players I have seen recently in this same design:

Larry Andersen
Eric Anthony
Jeff Bagwell
Kevin Bass
Andujar Cedeno
Benny Disteafano
Doug Drabek
Steve Finley (different photo, with normal undershirt instead of turtleneck)
Luis Gonzalez
Pete Harnisch
Billy Hatcher
Chuck Jackson
Darryl Kile
Mark Portugal
Dave Smith
Harry Spilman
Gene Tenace (Coach)
Eric Yelding

    All of the above I lump together because all the players are wearing the same style jersey.  I've also seen a Julio Linares (coach) card in the same card style, but wearing the newer uniform the Astros introduced in 1994.

07 January 2015

2012 Diablos Rojos del Mexico Roberto Kelly

     At the end of his playing days, when no Major League work could be found, Roberto Kelly finished out his career in Mexico City.  He played the 2002 and 2003 seasons with the Diablos Rojos, putting up respectable Mexican League numbers (batting .334 with 19 HR and 80 RBI in 78 games in 2002).  For the 2004 season, he stepped out of the line up and into his first non-player role as manager of the team.  Kelly was a mid-season replacement for Bernie Tatis, who had been sacked after the team occupied last place in the standings through May.  Once Kelly took over, the team went on a 17-4 run in June, putting them in 1st place.1

     Kelly's team would ultimately lose in the playoffs to Los Piratas de Campeche, but the half season showing was good enough to attract the attention of the San Francisco Giants organization who put Kelly at the helm of their South Atlantic League affiliate, the Augusta GreenJackets for the 2005 season.  In any case, 2005 was to be the 65th anniversary of the Diablos Rojos, and they instituted a Mexicans Only policy as a way to commemorate the occasion, so being from Panama, Kelly would have been out anyway.

    Spring forward to June of 2012 and the Diablos Rojos, with a sponsorship of Banamex (the second largest bank in Mexico), produced a very nice set of baseball cards featuring both active and former team members from throughout the history of the team.  The cards are slightly more narrow than standard, but where available, are in full color and on about the same quality card stock as most modern minor league cards.  The set contains at least 88 different cards.  The set is not numbered, but many of the cards feature the subjects' uniform numbers on the front, next to their name.  The set was given out at the stadium in Mexico City in packs of 5 cards each.  Many of them have turned up on on Mercado Libre for sale relatively cheaply.

    Awhile back Arturo, that great friend of the blog from Mexico, sent me his checklist for the set.   (Thank you again, sir, for helping me pick up the Roberto Kelly card for my collection!) 

     The checklist has been posted to the SportsCardForum.com Inventory Manager and to TradingCardDB.com.  As the set was not numbered, the checklists presented at each site were arranged in roughly alphabetical order.

1. http://www.espndeportes.com/news/story?id=242069